What are the reasons for prolapse in layers and treatments and prevention?

Small and Backyard Flocks October 16, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

When a hen lays an egg, the lower part of the hen's reproductive tract (oviduct) is turned inside out along with the egg. This allows the hen to lay an egg without coming into contact with fecal material. Sometimes the oviduct does not immediately retract back into the hen once an egg has been laid. This condition is known as prolapse. If noticed early, the oviduct can be gently pushed back into the hen. If not noticed immediately, other hens will pick at the protruding oviduct, damaging it and preventing it from retracting.

Several management problems in the rearing or laying of hens can be involved:

  • Hens being overweight.
  • Starting to increase the number of hours of light per day (photostimulation) before the pullet has reached the correct weight.
  • Feeding unbalanced diets.
  • Providing the hens with high-intensity light.

Hens that lay large double-yolked eggs are more prone to prolapse. Prolapse is also likely to occur at peak production.

There is no effective treatment for prolapse. Prevention is the best method of control.

  • Only photostimulate your pullets when they have reached the right body weight and age. This will vary from breed to breed but is typically around 17 weeks of age.
  • Feed only balanced feed rations specifically formulated for pullets and then layers. 
  • Do not use high-intensity light. Chickens are more sensitive to light than humans, and excessive light can result in aggressive behavior.
  •  If your flock is laying more than one double-yolked egg per 25 hens per day, reduce their daily feed consumption slightly.

For more information, refer to the page on prolapse in poultry.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.